By Jac St. Jean
The average Springfield College student does not wake up for class in the morning and put on a pair of denim jeans. They usually stick to the sweatpants and t-shirt combo, a comfortable “uniform” for the athletic atmosphere of the school.
But on Wednesday, April 27, denim jeans were purposefully worn by students across campus. Denim Day occurs on the last Wednesday of April every year to recognize and stand with survivors of sexual assault.
The history of this day can be traced back to the year 1998 in Italy, where an 18-year-old girl was raped by her 45-year-old driving instructor. One year after the incident, the verdict of the case was overturned. The perpetrator had appealed their case, and the jury deemed that the sexual contact with the girl was consensual because her jeans were so tight she needed help taking them off.
The following day, hundreds of Italian women showed up to their respective jobs wearing jeans as a form of silent protest for the nonsensical decision to overturn the case.
Senior Nora Fitzgerald helped organize the festivities held in the Campus Union. As the sexual and gender-based misconduct educator in the Title IX office, Fitzgerald believes the annual day of protest is an important one for the Springfield College community.
“Denim Day is a protest against the idea of rape culture and things that promote rape culture like victim blaming,” she stated. “It’s a day to support victims or survivors, and really try to make some preventative efforts in the future too.”
Since her arrival on Alden Street in 2018, Fitzgerald has immensely enjoyed the overall aspect and empowering aura of Denim Day.
“I’ve always really enjoyed Denim Day here,” she expressed. “It’s a very serious topic, but I think that it’s really nice to see people interacting with it in such a positive way.
“I really like that we get so many people involved with it, because it’s so important, honestly, to talk about, especially on a college campus. I think that more people should be aware of the resources they have and be aware of what we can do at Springfield to support students,” Fitzgerald said.
Denim Day at SC was a collaborative effort between over 10 organizations and clubs on campus, such as Public Safety, Art Club, Athlete Ally, BirthPlace Studios, BSU, CAB, NSSLHA, OneLove, SGA, SSBD, Student Advocates for Wellness and the Y-Club.
Vice President of the Art Club, Nikki Connello, was present with a variety of denim patches, paint, and a hot glue gun. Students were offered to paint an empowering message or a symbol on a denim patch, and glue it to a pair of denim jeans to be on display for all members of the Springfield College community, as a way to stand in solidarity with the unspoken survivors of sexual assault on our campus.
“I think Denim Day is a good opportunity to break the stigma that a lot of people go through in having to talk about [sexual assault] and bring it up,” Connello shared. “Oftentimes, a lot of these cases can be dismissed, and this is kind of a day where we’re fighting back and saying, ‘Your voice matters.’”
Denim Day is certainly a day that can give a voice to those who feel voiceless, or even a lending ear to those who feel unheard. One student — a survivor, who wishes to remain anonymous — was assisting Connello at the table, and felt a true sense of empowerment and love from the students who shared their support.
“As someone who has experienced sexual assault, it’s really hard,” the student said. “It’s nice to see a group of people coming together to show their awareness of this… it’s really nice to see everyone showing support.”
If you or someone you know at Springfield has experienced any form of gender-based misconduct, head to https://pridenet.springfield.edu/ICS/Offices/Concerned_About_a_Student/ to fill out a Title IX report, or https://springfield.edu/titleix/get-help to see what Springfield College can do to help.
Photo Courtesy The Springfield Student